Sri Lanka lifts its ban on fertilizers due to political concerns

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Despite farmer warnings of food shortages and significant damage to the vast tea sector, Sri Lanka’s government backed down from relaxing an import restriction on most chemical fertilizers on Thursday (Aug 5) due to political concerns. The South Asian nation has been dealing with a financial constraint exacerbated by the pandemic. The central bank has been enacting wide import bans to stem the outflow of foreign currency since March last year.
Farmers protested the restriction on chemical fertilizers, which are widely used in the tea and rice industries. Farmers reported failed vegetable crops as current stocks began to run out in recent weeks, prompting them to mount protests. The embargo was lifted on Tuesday by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s younger brother.
The President had previously hailed the strategy as assisting Sri Lankan agriculture in becoming “100% organic,” including on the world scene. Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Udith Jayasinghe told reporters in Colombo that there has been “no change in the government policy move to organic fertilizer.”
Under careful regulation, some nitrogen-rich plant fertilizers will be permitted.
Urea fertilizer, which will continue to be banned, is widely used in the US$1.25 billion (S$1.69 billion) tea business and rice growing, the country’s primary food. Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea exporters. Ceylon tea is prized for its flavor and good quality.

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